Do you know what you are doing?
Recently I was told of a Blue Chip company whose IT organisation, in the guise of cost cutting, has recently disbanded its QA function. From now on, testing will be conducted by the developers themselves. Since when have developers relished the role of testing? It is inevitable that this cost cutting solution will end up costing the organisation more than it saves.
At the end of last summer I was working with a bank on their on-line retail banking strategy. During a workshop with representatives from their mortgage business they made it clear that they saw the biggest sector for growth in 2008 was the buy-to-let market. I left the workshop shaking my head, were they not reading the same newspapers I was? Even then I didn’t need a crystal ball to tell them that they were putting their eggs into the wrong basket.
Clearing out old paperwork, I came across a document describing the technology strategy for a blue chip organisation that I’d worked with in the past.
There is a guiding principle that is being applied to product technology selection that says we do not follow a ‘best-of-breed’ approach, but rather select a major technology leader (IBM) and ride their product development cycle. This means we explicitly seek and accept the “80% solution” rather than trying to optimise for each and every possible requirement. [We are] emphatic on this point. What this means in practice is that, following the selection of IBM WebSphere Application Server… add-on functionality should be sought from the IBM WebSphere family of products first. Shortcomings will be made explicit in order that we can escalate with IBM, and influence their product strategy.
No rationale was given for their preference for going with a single vendor rather than a best of breed solution, but talk to developers who have used best of breed products and the above mentioned vendor product and they will almost certainly come down on the side of the “best of breed” (that is why they are best).
During the dot-com boom I worked with bank who were developing a WAP mobile banking platform. Trouble was it could only be accessed via a Nokia 7110 (the first mobile phone with a WAP browser), the experience sucked – “Worthless Application Protocol” and the market penetration was never going to reach beyond the most hard-core (and GUI-patient) of early adopters.
At the time the same bank was intent on closing as many branches as possible – branch banking was considered unprofitable; on-line was the way forward… yet several years later I was back in the same bank helping them with their in-branch customer experience.
We all must have examples of times when we have shaken our heads and asked of others do they really know what do are doing? Whose interests are their decisions in aid of? You may not be able to do anything proactive about it at the time, but the question is, what can you learn from these encounters and how can you use them to teach others in the future.